The Workshop School Project for Restoring Historical Buildings in Recife began in 2001, based on models found in towns of historical interest in other parts of Brazil. The main objective was to provide opportunities for generating jobs and income by training youth aged 18 to 24 to work in construction and to restore of historical buildings. The Workshop School is part of a broader initiative carried out by the City Hall and the Ministry of Work to support youth from low-income communities in central Recife, including Coelhos, Joana Bezerra and Santo Amaro.
The Project was developed at the Center for Work and Culture (CTC), a group that has worked for 39 years with professional training and is publicly recognized for its commitment to quality in training courses.
The CTC methodology is very different to that normally used by professional training schools. In addition to technical information, social, political and human issues are also considered as part of the curriculum. The process of “knowledge building” is horizontal, shared between students and teachers, with many classes taught by the students themselves. The blackboard functions as a collective notebook and includes contributions by both students and teachers. The coordinators believe that these cooperative aspects of the classroom culture at the Center for Work and Culture make the teaching process more meaningful to its students.
The students are responsible for deciding both the pedagogic aspects (such as lessons, exams and grading) and the financial aspects of their own training programs; they become both beneficiaries and owners of this educational initiative. Each class has a “bank box” where money deposited by the students helps fund food, medication and cleaning materials for the class.
The Department of Science, Technology and Economic Development of Recife administers the course, which is intended to inculcate in its students a respect for the historical heritage of the Recife as a whole. For the 2005 class, the predicted cost was of 366,700 Reais, most of which was to be provided by the Ministry of Work. However, due to federal resource policies, the Project had to look elsewhere for resources, receiving funding from the Bank of Brazil. A number of other entities also support the Restoration Workshop School, such as the Pernambuco Association of Real Estate Companies and a number of construction and engineering companies.
Another important partnership has been set up with the Municipal Department of Education, which has plans for the Project to become part of the Pro-Youth. This will mean that youth involved in the program would be able to receive official school credit for their work if they choose to attend a technical school or university, and would be eligible for a stipend of 100 Reais per month.
Focusing mainly on generating jobs and income, the Restoration Workshop School has achieved important results. Thirty-four graduates have been hired for work at historical sites, and the Project has helped create a feeling of self-worth among students, besides helping the city recover its history and pride. As of 2005, the newly restored buildings have remained graffiti-free, and there is community interest in following new projects, with a growing awareness of the importance of the preservation of the municipality’s cultural assets.
• By means of the Restoration Workshop School, Recife works with architectural preservation on several fronts, protecting the city’s cultural heritage, contributing to the tourist trade and providing jobs and income by training youths in restoration techniques.
• The training course teaches both students and community to become aware of, respect, and take pride in their historical heritage.